MPR News: What’s it like to perform with the Rolling Stones?
VocalEssence artistic director Philip Brunelle didn’t hesitate when the Rolling Stones asked if his choir would perform on the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the band’s Minneapolis show.
“I said, ‘We can do it,’ ” Brunelle said. ” ‘You’re coming to Minnesota; you’re coming to choral country.’ “
The singers were excited for the opportunity both perform and see the inner workings of such a large concert up close.
“It’s amazing to see how many people it takes to put on a show of this caliber in terms of the sound effects, the lighting effects,” Brunelle said. “It goes off without a hitch because they’re just true professionals — they know what they want, they know how to get it.”
The choir was able to practice the song with the band just once before the performance.
“We heard later from one of the assistants after we had done our sound check, they said, ‘Wow, they were really impressed, you guys nailed it, we don’t need to rehearse anymore, we’re set for the evening,'” Brunelle said.
On Wednesday night, following an early evening downpour, the choir took the stage in front of 60,000 fans. Twelve members of the choir were on each side of the stage.
“What’s amazing is the amount of sound up that close,” Brunelle said. “Oh my word. You know your part — and you know you’re just part of a huge blend of sound.”
The singers’ training and instincts took over during the song as they traded vocals with singer Mick Jagger.
“We just listened and you really kind of follow with the drums,” Brunelle said. “You’ve memorized where it is, and boom you’re back in.”
The Rolling Stones were very thankful for the choir’s contribution. And choir members were impressed with the energy of the band, which had its first international hit five decades ago.
“Mick is amazing. I mean he is so energetic and he doesn’t let up. Two hours, and he was on, on, on all the time.,” Brunelle said. “Then of course you get out there to sing and you’ve got thousands of people, everyone, just on their feet. It was an amazing experience.”